The global epidemic of obesity continues to be a major concern. In the US, obesity is the most common cause of increased morbidity and mortality, due to the health complications it is associated with. New research shows that 25% of adults in America are clinically obese, which reveals a 50% increase compared to 20 years ago. Further, almost half of all Americans are overweight. In addition, it is estimated that approximately 23% of Canadians over the age of 18 (about 5.5 million adults) are obese and another 36% are overweight.
I need not go further, as most people are aware of the inherent risks of being overweight and out of shape. We are bombarded daily with reminders of what we should be doing to stay in tip-top shape.
What I will discuss further is how to transform your body into a fat burning machine!
Straying away from the traditional three meals per day approach and adopting the new “grazing” style of eating is essential. Over the course of the day, try to eat 4-6 small, nutritionally balanced meals (spaced by approximately 2-3 hours). This is a two pronged approach: firstly, you will not overeat because you know that you will be eating again in a few hours, and secondly, you won’t be starving when it comes time for your next meal, so you’re less likely to binge. Many people believe that they must starve themselves in order to lose fat; however, by eating regularly, you will ensure that your body does not go into a famine like state, where it will store fat (particularly in the mid-section) as a safety mechanism. In this situation, your mind tells your body that it must store extra fat (a high-energy source with respect to calories per gram) because with the absence of external sustenance, you will need to survive on this fuel source.
In addition, starting the day off with a nutritious breakfast will promote fat burning right from the get go; do not miss this meal. Finally, try to stick to fresh food choices, lots of fruits and veggies, and stay hydrated.
Cardio is a great tool to assist with fat loss, but the key to keeping the weight off is boosting your metabolism. In simplest terms and in the context of this article, metabolism refers to the amount of calories you burn at rest (Basal Metabolic Rate; BMR).
It has been proven time and time again that the best way to boost your BMR is to exercise; specifically through strength training. Your body burns massive amounts of calories when you strength train, and your metabolism stays elevated for some time following the work out; thus, burning additional calories.
Muscle cells utilize more calories than fat cells; by increasing the amount of muscle cells in your body, you can super charge your BMR. Specifically, by increasing your lean muscle mass by one pound, you can burn an extra 50 calories daily. Just imagine, by putting in a minimum of three days in the weight room of your gym, you will be burning more calories while you sleep, drive around town, and even when you watch television.
Muscle cells contain tiny structures called mitochondria that are involved in producing energy stores used in muscular contractions. Regular exercise leads to increases in both the size and number of mitochondria in your muscle cells. To sustain the chemical reactions being carried out by these mitochondria, your muscle cells burn calories derived from stored fat. As you can now see, a positive snowball effect starts to take effect where the more lean muscle mass you have, the larger/more mitochondria you have, and the more fat stores you need to burn to keep everything running smoothly.
The secret to weight management is based on the “slow and steady wins the race” approach. Fad diets and weight loss pills are unhealthy and will not result in lasting fat loss. Take the time to give back to your body through healthy eating, regular exercise, maintenance of a positive mind state, and relaxation time.
- Brewer, Dr. Sarah. Energy Boosters Handbook. New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2002.
- Izumiya, Y., Hopkins, T., Morris, C., Sato, K., Zeng, L., Viereck, J., Hamilton, J.A., Ouchi, N., LeBrasseur, N.K., & Walsh, K. (2008). Fast/Glycolytic muscle fiber growth reduces fat mass and improves metabolic parameters in obese mice. Cell Metabolism, 7,159–172.
- Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.ca/english/research/82-620-MIE/2005001/articles/adults/aobesity.htm